Temper home-school response

Temper home-school response

Gazette Column
The latest Iowa Poll shows state residents are reacting to recent deaths and abuses within the foster care system with more scrutiny of state home-school laws. Such sentiments are partially misplaced. There have been two high-profile deaths among youth adopted out of the Iowa foster care system, and a third first-person account of how one young women fled her abusers. In nearly all such cases, home schooling has played a significant role by allowing abusive parents to further hide their actions and neglect. It’s largely in reaction to these horrific cases that participants in a recent Iowa Poll responded with skepticism of all Iowans who chose to home-school: • 46 percent think families with foster children should be required to send children to an educational facility (not be allowed to home-school) • 67 percent…
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Can Iowa maintain high rank?

Can Iowa maintain high rank?

Gazette Column
Boosted by past policy decisions, Iowa has become a leader in child economic well-being. according to one national study. But the Hawkeye State is beginning to lag on children’s health. Iowa is among the top five states in the 2017 Kids Count Data Book, compiled by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. The study ranks states based on 16 indicators in four areas — health, education, economic well-being and family and community. The group says these are key factors in determining a child’s ability to thrive. Nationally, Iowa ranks third among states in economic well-being. It’s also among the top 10 for education (sixth), health (seventh) and family and community (eighth). The Hawkeye State’s composite ranking is fifth in the nation, following New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Vermont and Minnesota. [caption id="attachment_1234" align="alignleft" width="640"]…
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An opportunity to care for Iowa’s kids

An opportunity to care for Iowa’s kids

Gazette Column
Before the General Assembly comes to a close lawmakers need take notice of new school lunch policies in the southwest. Legislators in Texas and California have filed bills to address “school lunch shaming.” New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez signed her state’s anti-shaming bill into law earlier this month, making it the first of its kind in the nation. “Study after study tells us that hungry students can’t keep up in school to meet their potential,” Martinez noted in her message to lawmakers. “I am pleased to sign Senate Bill 374, which ensures that our children will never go back to class hungry after lunch, even if their parents fail to pay outstanding bills for their meals.” The New Mexico effort, dubbed the Hunger-Free Students’ Bill of Rights Act, was especially…
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Still a lot of work to do

Still a lot of work to do

Gazette Column
Throughout the community one question seems to dominate personal interaction: “How are you feeling?” I’ve been asked by people I see each day and those I only have occasional opportunity to speak with. Convenience store clerks, local members of the clergy, co-workers, neighbors, transit riders and drivers and community activists of all stripes are curious, some perhaps morbidly so, on my and their other neighbors’ state of mind. So, how are you feeling in these first post-election days? I am, of course, disappointed that the nation has not finally elected a woman to its highest office. I’m especially concerned by the years of misinformation and sexism that led to undeserved backlash against Hillary Clinton, and a campaign with an overall anti-women tone. More than shock at Donald Trump’s public disrespect…
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Aim higher for Iowa’s gun safety training

Aim higher for Iowa’s gun safety training

Featured, Gazette Column
For the past five years, Iowa law has required citizens wanting a weapons permit to pay for a “safety” class that has no minimum standards. And, based on conversations with the crop of this year’s legislative candidates, no changes are on the horizon. In 2011, when Iowa became a “shall issue” state, removing nearly all discretion in weapons permitting from local law enforcement, the law required most applicants to attend safety classes. The Legislature, however, did not specify the content or curriculum of those classes or give such authority to the Iowa Department of Public Safety. [caption id="attachment_147" align="alignright" width="300"] A display of 7-round .45 caliber handguns are seen at Coliseum Gun Traders Ltd. in Uniondale, New York January 16, 2013. (REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton)[/caption] The result is a patchwork — a…
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Time to end the Iowa K-12 funding shell game

Time to end the Iowa K-12 funding shell game

Gazette Column
Iowans received a mixed message this month when state officials finally found middle ground on state K-12 education funding. To put the lesson in context, we have to look back at last year’s K-12 spending debacle and Gov. Terry Branstad’s veto of a portion of the legislature’s 2015 compromise deal. The veto came just before the July 4 holiday, announced via email from the governor’s office. The legislative deal — a 1.25 percent increase with an additional $55 million in one-time funding — had been forged during a hard, six-month slog. Branstad took exception to the one-time spending and chose to use his line-item veto authority to remove it from the budget. “Maintaining the fiscal health of Iowa over the long term is my top budgeting priority,” Branstad said then,…
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This is no time for a food fight

This is no time for a food fight

Gazette Blog
Raise your hand if you remember when Congress debated making ketchup a vegetable. Many people remember the absurdity, even as they’ve forgotten the context. In 1981 — back when I was just another kid in the school lunch line — Congress hoped to take a ride on President Ronald Reagan’s spending-cut coattails by demanding the USDA cut $1 billion from child nutrition programs. But proposed legislation neglected to specify what should be slashed. School lunches were then mandated to have a meat, a grain, a dairy and two servings of fruits or vegetables. USDA officials told Congress they could make the cuts and still meet the requirements if pickle relish and ketchup could be reclassified as vegetables. You’d think after the subsequent backlash that Congress would have learned Americans want…
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Let’s redo school lunch

Let’s redo school lunch

Gazette Column
Policies set by school districts to address negative school lunch account balances are drawing headlines, and make clear that it is time to rethink the program. In Kentucky, several parents complained after an elementary school student’s lunch was taken away and tossed in the garbage because of an overdrawn lunch account. A Michigan high school student suffered a similar fate when his account reached a $4.95 negative balance. In Massachusetts, as many as 25 middle school students were forced to dump hot lunches because their lunch accounts were in arrears. The list goes on. When lunch accounts dip into the red, school children across the nation are being denied lunches or offered a paltry alternative, which some have dubbed a “sandwich of shame.” School districts trying to operate within tightening…
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Meanwhile, under the golden dome

Meanwhile, under the golden dome

Gazette Column
Welcome back to another year of Legislative Goodness. I’m joined by intrepid reporter Graph Stacker and political analyst Ima Payfordthiss. Anything unusual happen this week, or are lawmakers still deadlocked on school funding? Graph: There was actually movement in the K-12 funding dispute, Lynda. A Democrat-controlled Senate committee approved a 4 percent increase in state aid. As you know, the Republican-controlled House already voted to give schools an extra 2 percent in state aid. Ima: Yet splitting the difference doesn’t seem likely since the 3 percent average is above Gov. Terry Branstad’s proposed 2.45 percent increase. Graph: No one wants another appearance by the infamous veto pen. Is this another legislative session where school funding sucks up all the oxygen? Graph: Well, we’ll have to wait and see what lawmakers…
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Vilsack support of Branstad water quality proposal no surprise

Vilsack support of Branstad water quality proposal no surprise

Gazette Column
Tax exemptions should be on the table The urban and rural divide is alive and thriving. The response to an appearance this week by former Iowa governor and U.S. Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack at Gov. Terry Branstad’s news conference announcing a possible extension and expansion of a penny sales tax now funneled to school infrastructure proves it. Branstad’s proposal is to extend a one-cent sales tax earmarked for school infrastructure and set to expire in 2029. The plan would keep the tax in place for 20 additional years, through 2049. While schools would continue to earn proceeds from that tax to a certain cap point, about three-quarters of future growth would be funneled to conservation efforts that help reduce farm chemical runoff and, in turn, improve Iowa’s water quality. Some…
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